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How to Tune a Conga

Learn how to tune a conga from the musicians at Wula Drum in this Howcast video.


Host: I am going to show you how to tune a conga. If you look closely here, you will see these hooks. These hooks help to add tension or release tension on this animal skin that is stretched by use of these hooks across the top of the drum.

In my hand you see a wrench, and the wrench actually matches with the size of this hook. Because at the bottom, there is a little bolt here...So, by going, as we would say, counterclockwise to you or from you, you will loosen or add tension, because the hook is pulling on and stretching this animal skin across the top of the drum.

Watch, it might not change really quickly, but you will notice there will be a change after a while, after the loosening of tension. Watch, I am going to loosen it now. I am pulling this wrench toward me, which is turning this little bolt at the bottom.

...And you hear a change.

So can you see? I am loosening it.

You want to loosen it evenly. You do not want it too tight at one pulling place or another. So, I am going to do it again.

Do you hear it changing?

I will do it faster.

Do you hear the change of notes?

Do you hear it going down? I think you do.

One more...

I know you can tell the difference now. I am going to begin by tuning it up, before I was tuning it down. So, here we go...placing the wrench in the right place, tuning it.

Going up...

You hear it going up again?


I hear the sound changing.

One more time...

...And if your drum is really heavy. It does get to be a bit much. So, please pay attention as you are tuning it, because the drum could fall over. Another important note in tuning or detuning your instrument and preparing it to play solo, is you might want to just go with your feelings. You go with what sounds good for you. If you are going for ensemble playing, you might get a particular note that definitely supports the music, as you are the foundation along with a base player.

It is also important not to tune a conga of a particular size too high, because it will change the quality of sound. It will make it too flat or too tinny or if it is too loose, it just does not have the projection to put forward that note. It is a thing where you make the decision, but try to pay attention to the drum you are tuning, to how fast you are tuning it, if you are playing solo, and if you are playing in an ensemble. One more time, I am going to tune another one of these lugs up. Pressing it away from me...

That is almost where I started off at. One more time...Turning it again...Pushing it away...

That is how you tune and detune a conga.

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